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Everyone has a different experience of and with gender, so I’d like to share mine.
I was AFAB (Assigned Female At Birth), and as far as parts go -don’t ever ask someone about their parts, no matter their gender - but I will tell you, mine are still as they were when I was born.
Easily put, growing up, I didn’t know that “gender dysphoria” was a thing, I merely thought, “right now, I’m a girl, but people change and hopefully sooner rather than later, I will not be a girl anymore.” I think it’s worth noting that I don’t believe in “girl traits” and “boy traits.” No one is predispositioned to like blue or pink, based solely on the bits between their legs. So while some folks might say I had more “male” tendencies, I will be the first to argue that tree climbing, rough-housing, spitting, and burping the alphabet, are activities for everyone. I’ve never liked the term “tomboy” that felt condescending. I didn’t feel like the female imitation of masculinity, in my mind and understanding, I WAS masculine. I felt masculine even while playing dolls, even while talking about boys, and to this day; even while kissing them.
It was the pronouns that got me. I understood as a child why everyone was mistaken, I looked like other little girls, so why shouldn’t they call me she? It wasn’t their fault, and frankly, I didn’t know there were other options. I knew that the narrator in my head was male, or at least male sounding, and difficult though it was to explain, I used to tell adults that “some of the people in my head are boys.” So I waited and I worried, and as I aged into a preteen body and was allowed to dress myself, I looked more and more “masculine” - that is, I postured male - without knowing it - this made things interesting. As a scruffy haired 11 year old, in a t-shirt and jeans, I got a lot of “he’s” and “Mr.’s,” by mistake, even more often when I began going exclusively by, “V.” It would be years before I learned words like “transgendered” or “intersex” or “gender identity” but I knew that nothing felt quite as special and correct as when strangers called me, “he.”
I learned about intersex and middlesex people first. I was around the same age, 11 or 12, when a story came on, interviewing a number of different intersex people who had been incorrectly assigned at birth. What I enjoyed most about the story, was that the majority of the people interviewed did not fit into one gender or another, that is - ANY gender that was assigned to them at birth would have been incorrect. I looked to my mother, who was also watching the story, and stared quizzically. I could never find the courage to ask, but I hoped that if I looked at her like I already knew something, she might reveal to me that I had actually been like the people in the news story all along. No luck.
By the time I was 15 I was still, unknowingly, posturing masculine. It’s difficult to explain that I didn’t know the difference. I knew that girls wore jeans and t-shirts, and so did I wear jeans and t-shirts, but it was as though a perception filter would not allow me to see the difference in the way I dressed and carried myself vs. my female peers.When presented with the option, “you should wear clothes that fit your body differently” I would say, outwardly, “but I don’t like those clothes” and inwardly follow with, “because they’re for girls!” Up until 15, I still had not bled. It’s something I’ve written about a lot but, until I started bleeding, I still held out hope that my internal organs knew what my brain had always been telling me, “our body is not meant to bloom into womanhood.” But alas, near the end of my freshman year of high school, I got my first period. It felt like a betrayal, and to this day I get quite excruciating cramps (so do many people with a hormone imbalance) - injury to insult.
I had been plotting, since age 12 that as soon as I turned 19, I could have my breasts surgically removed. I would tell everyone, I figured, that I had cancer and they just needed to go, and I could finally look more like myself. I didn’t know at the time that this was a thing that people do, or that it could be done without lying to a doctor.
I learned to posture male by being myself, I learned to posture female by imitation, and by the time I was 18 I was getting pretty good. I feel that I should mention that I am 4 feet and 10 inches tall. I am a small, small animal and it has not made my life easy, not in the least. Just as bad or worse (this is only FOR ME, everyone else has their own feelings on the matter!) than being constantly “she’d” was being constantly mistaken for a child of eight to 12 years old, I found and find it grating and the feeling of hopelessness it gives me is not one I’ve been able to easily shake. That said, I chose to learn to posture female because it is easier. That sounds awful but it’s a tough world for such a short dude. To add gender issues to that mix is not only frustrating but scary and dangerous.
I’d like to pause to acknowledge all the cis men, *trans men, and people who posture masculine while also being under 5 feet tall [*in a culture where this is not the norm.] I know that you all take some shit, because even posturing female, I take some shit, and people are the culture that I live in is cruel to people about their bodies in many ways, and men, especially short men, don’t get enough god damn credit. It’s tough, and you’re tough for dealing with it, and that’s fucking sexy.
I was not tough enough. And the more I started to posture femme, the worse the gender dysphoria became. It was around 18 or 19 that it was the worst; I could not even consider my own gender without feeling as though I might burst into tears (which is sort of frustrating when you want people to take you seriously as a man, but your culture is fucked and doesn’t understand that men cry, get it together, people.). Every “she” stung hard and to make matters worse, I was dating a cis man who did not understand that gender variation even exists!
I remember the day I started birth control. The previous week I’d had a particularly painful period, I’d blacked out in my hallway on the way to the bathroom and was unable to get up from the floor for more than half an hour, so I went to talk to a doctor. My doctor seemed kind and fairly understanding, and suggested that I get on birth control to help with cramps, and of course, to be on the safe side where sex was concerned. I agreed and she wrote the prescription and asked if I had any questions. I did. The first thing to come to my mind was, “do you think this could affect any gender weirdness I’m feeling?” I don’t know if I sounded more shaken or hopeful, but her reaction made me uncomfortable. The doctor looked up from the papers she was shuffling and down her glasses at me, “I think you need to talk to a different type of doctor about that, ok?” I looked away and brushed it off…but really…what?
Here she was, prescribing a hormone that would have large scale effects on my body and she could not tell me how it might affect my brain? Isn’t that important? Isn’t that something that other patients ask?
I am 25 now, as I write this. I’ve been on BC for seven years and speaking solely from my experience, I can say that yes, I experienced a difference in how I related to my own gender since starting the pill [estrogen]. It’s not that taking the pill has MADE ME posture female more often, or that it has made me more convincing, but it seems to have succeeded in making doing so less painful. This is only my experience.
And of course, I am just not always comfortable with feminine pronouns. I’m just not. But I largely attribute my ability to talk about (and write about) my gender experiences to the fact that I am taking a hormone that seems to have helped me cope, even if it’s just a little bit.
So that’s how I got here. This is where I am.
I’m V., my preferred pronoun is “them, they” - and I am now comfortable talking about it, if you have any questions.